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Volume-5, Issue-1, January -2016 ISSN No 2277 - 8160

Research Paper Geography

Interlinking of Indian Rivers: A Boon for India

Dr. Anil Kumar

Lecturer in Geography, GSSS Atela Khurd, District Bhiwani (Haryana

ABSTRACT The idea of Inter-linking of Rivers in India proposal has a long history. During the British colonial rule in the 19th century,
engineer Arthur Cotton proposed the plan to interlink major Indian rivers in order to hasten import and export of goods
from its colony in South Asia, as well as to address water shortages and droughts in southeastern India, now Andhra
Pradesh and Orissa. This excess-scarcity regional disparity and flood-drought cycles have created the need for water resources management.
Rivers inter-linking is one proposal to address that need.
A former irrigation minister proposed National Water Grid in 1970s . He was concerned that the Brahmaputra and Ganga basins are water
surplus areas, and central and south India as water deficit areas. He proposed that surplus water be diverted to areas of deficit. Again in 1980,
Indias Ministry of Water Resources came out with a report entitled National Perspectives for Water Resources Development. But abandoned the
plan on political grounds.
Interlinking got a boost when then President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam made a passing reference to the need for finding a solution to simultaneous
floods and droughts in his address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day in 2002. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is credited
with giving the interlinking programme a big push in


Introduction Godavari (Po- Andhra

The concept of interlinking of rivers in India is not a new one, but has 4 Ghagra-Yamuna Uttar Pradesh 4 lavaram)- Krishna Pradesh
a long history since British Rule in 19th Century. The Need of this plan
arose due to excessscarcity of surface water regional disparity in the 5 Sarda-Yamuna Uttar Pradesh 5 Krishna (Almati) Karnataka
Country. But this plan was abandoned due to many reasons. But with
6 Yamuna-Luni Uttar Pradesh, 6 Krishna (Srisailam) Karnataka
the reference of former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and the then Rajasthan Pennar
Prime Minister Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, it got push in 2002. Krishna (Nagarjun Andhra
7 Luni-Sabarmati Rajasthan 7 Sagar) Pennar Pradesh and
Gujarat (Somasila) Tamil Nadu
But a lot of states do not want to go ahead with these projects, for
fear of losing surplus water and thus getting states to agree for this Chunar Sone Pennar (Somasila)
gigantic task is not an easy work. Lack of political consensus will make 8 Barrage Uttar Pradesh 8 Cauvery (Grand Tamil Nadu
the project an utter failure. The states having the government of po- Anaicut)
litical parties other than the party in power at the centre will certainly 9 Sone Dam-Southern Uttar Pradesh 9 Cauvery (Kattalai) Tamil Nadu
Tributaries of Ganga Vaigai Gundar
oppose the project either on the ground of lack of financial resources
Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya
or on the ground of losing the surplus water. 10 Ganga-Damodar-
Subernarekha W.Bengal and 10 Ken Betwa Pradesh and
Odisha Uttar Pradesh
Again, in 2012, the apex Court of India directed Indian Government
to move the plan of inter-linking of rivers. Anyhow with the guide- 11 Subernarekha-
Ma- Odisha 11 Parbati
Kalisindh Rajasthan
lines of Supreme Court the National Perspective Plan (NPP) prepared
12 Kosi Mechi Bihar 12 Par-Tapi-Narmada Gujarat and
by the Ministry of Water Resources, the NWDA has identified 14 links
under the Himalayan Component and 16 links under the Peninsular Gujarat,
Rivers Component. Maharashtra
13 Farrakha Sunder- Bihar and W. 13 Damanganga Daman and
bans Bengal Pinjal Diu and Dadra
On the completion, the country will have 30 river links, 3,000 storage and Nagar
structures, a canal network stretching almost 15,000 km and can gen- Haveli
erate 34 GW of hydroelectric power, create some 87 million acres of JogighopaTeetsa-
Irrigated land, and transfer 174 trillion litres of water a year. 14 Farrakha (Alternative Assam
and W. 14 Bedthi Varada Karnataka and
to I
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, 15 NatravatiHemavati Karnataka
Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Puducherry, Rajasthan, 16 Pamba-Achankovil
Tamil Nadu
and Kerla
Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are the major
States to benefit from, the project. Importance of River linking in India
The importance of river linking can be understand through following
Sr. Proposed Links States Sr. Proposed Links States India receives about 4,000 cubic kilometers of rain annually,
No. No. or about 1 million gallons of fresh water per person every
ManasSankosh Assam, West Mahanandi (Manib- Odisha and year. However, the rainfall pattern in India varies dramati-
1 Teesta Ganga Bangal, Bihar 1 hadra)- Godawari Andhra
(Dowlaiswaram) Pradesh cally across distance and over calendar months. About 85%
Godawari (In- of rainfall is received during monsoons in the Himalayan
2 Kosi Ghagra Bihar and Uttar 2 champalli) Krishna Telangana catchments of the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin. The north-
Pradesh (Pulichintala) eastern region of the country receives heavy rain, in com-
Godawari (In- parison with the northwestern, western and southern parts.
3 Gandak-Ganga Uttar Pradesh 3 champalli) Krishna Telangana The uncertainty and uneven distribution of monsoon is a
(Nagarjun Sagar) serious problem for the country. The nation sees cycles of
drought and flood.
Population increase in India is another important need for
Volume-5, Issue-1, January -2016 ISSN No 2277 - 8160

river inter-linking. Indias population growth rate has been Hindrances in Interlinking of Rivers
falling, but still we are adding about 18 to 20 million people Interlinking of river project is contentious issue with many socioec-
every year. The resulting demand for food require adequate onomic, political and environmental zigzags. Some of these are the
irrigation for higher yields of about 140 million hectares following:
of land. Currently, a fraction of that land is irrigated where
mainly relies on monsoon. So, river linking is claimed to be Environmentalists, hydrologists and economists around the
a possible means of assured and better irrigation for grow- country and world have expressed deep concerns at the ir-
ing demand of food for a growing population. reversible damage that this sort of a mega project can do to
India needs infrastructure for logistics and movement of the countrys environment and Indias water resources.
freight. Using connected rivers as navigation is a cleaner, A lot of states do not want to go ahead with these projects,
low carbon footprint form of transport infrastructure, par- for fear of losing surplus water and thus getting states to
ticularly for ores and food grains. Besides, it is lucrative for agree for this gigantic task is not an easy work.
tourism and enhancement. Lack of political consensus will make the project an utter
India currently stores only 30 days of rainfall, while devel- failure. The states having the government of political par-
oped nations strategically store 900 days worth of water ties other than the party in power at the centre will certainly
demand that makes about 3% only of developed countries oppose the project either on the ground of lack of financial
like America in arid areas river basins and reservoirs. Indias resources or on the ground of losing the surplus water.
dam reservoirs store only 200 cubic meters per person. In- The idea of transferring the water from rivers which receive
dia also relies excessively on groundwater, which accounts flood water to rivers that are drought prone goes against
for over 50 percent of irrigated area with 20 million tube natures principles and can alter the hydrology and ecologi-
wells installed. About 15 percent of Indias food is being cal conditions of rivers to an irrecoverable extent.
produced using rapidly depleting groundwater. The end of The interlinking of rivers project is expected to displace
the era of massive expansion in groundwater use is going to about 5.5 million people, mostly the tribals and the farmers,
demand greater reliance on surface water supply systems. estimates the World Wildlife Fund.
Proponents of the project suggest Indias water situation is The implementation cost of the project is so high that it
already critical, and it needs sustainable development and appears rather difficult to arrange such a big amount in an
management of surface water and groundwater usage. easy way.
Lakra et al., in their 2011 study, claim large dams, interbasin
transfers and water withdrawal from rivers is likely to have Discussion
negative as well as positive impacts on freshwater aquat- Despite serious objections from the environmentalists, geologists, en-
ic ecosystem. As regards to the impact on fish and aquatic gineers and experts, the issue of equitable distribution of surface wa-
biodiversity, there could be positive as well as negative im- ter throughout the country is of paramount importance. In that way
pacts. the interlinking of rivers may provide a long lasting solution to floods
The population of India is expected to grow further at a and droughts in various parts of the country. The opponents should
decelerating pace and stabilize around 1.5 billion by 2050, consider the success of Indira Gandhi canal in Rajasthan and Sardar
compared to the 2011 census. This will increase demand for Sarover Yojana in water scarce regions of Gujarat, while criticizing the
reliable sources of food and improved agriculture yields whole idea of inter linking of rivers. There might be certain issues of
both of which, claims Indias National Council of Applied ecological significance that must be given due consideration at the
Economic Research, require significantly improve irrigation time of implementation of individual projects. But any how it will cer-
network than the current state. tainly benefit in India economically and socially.
The river linking project is designed to ease water shortages
in western and southern India, while mitigating the impact
of recurrent floods in the eastern parts of the Ganga Basin.
Says One or the most effective ways to increase the irriga-
tion potential to improve food grain production, mitigate
floods and droughts and reduce regional imbalances in the
availability of water is the Inter Basin Water Transfer from
surplus rivers to deficit areas. The Brahmaputra and the
Ganga, particularly their northern tributaries; the Mahanadi,
the Godavari, and the west-flowing rivers originating from
the Western Ghats are found to be surplus in water resourc-
If storage reservoirs are built these (surplus) rivers and con-
nect them to other parts of the country regional imbalances
could be reduced significantly and lot of benefits by way of
additional irrigation domestic and industrial water supply,
hydropower generation navigational facilities would accrue.
Under the National Perspective Plan (NPP) prepared by the
Ministry of Water Resources, the NWDA has identified 14
links under the Himalayan Component and 16 links under
the Peninsular Rivers Component.

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The Interlinking of Indian Rivers: Some Questions on the Scientific, Economic and Environmental Dimensions of the Proposal IIM Calcutta,
IISWBM, Kolkata National water Development Agency (NWDA) Studies. Retrieved 29 August 2012. Suman Bery, Economic Impact of
Interlinking of Rivers Programme NCAER, India Misra et al., Proposed river-linking project of India: a boon or bane to nature, Environmental Geology, February 2007, Volume
51, Issue 8, pp 1361-1376 A.K. Singh (2003), Interlinking of Rivers in India: A Preliminary Assessment, New Delhi Koshy & Kanekal, SC revives NDA dream to interlink rivers
LiveMint & The Wall Street Journal (Feb 28 2012) National perspectives for water resources development (accessdate 12 June 2014) Himalayan Component WRIS, Govt
of India (Accessed: 27 November 2015) Himalayan Component Link Proposal NWDA, Govt of India (Accessed: June 2014) Summary of Link Proposal NWDA, Govt of India
(Accessed: June 2014) Feasibility Studies Peninsular components Govt of India National water Development Agency (NWDA) Studies Govt of India (Accessdate=June 09
2014) Pratiyogita Darpan, Jan 2015 p.p. 108-114